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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Sex equality: Council considers resolution for Equal Rights Amendment

Mar 16, 2020 01:06PM ● By Cassie Goff

The ERA was first introduced in 1923, but never passed. (Photo courtesy of Florida Memory/Public Domain)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

Utah could put the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) on the Constitution of the United States. A bill has been proposed in the Utah State Legislature to ratify the amendment. While the legislators deliberate, bill sponsor Rep. Karen Kwan has asked local municipalities to pass resolutions of support.

“I am proud to live in one of the 25 states that guarantees equal rates of sex,” said Kwan in her request to local municipalities.

H.J.R. 7 — Joint Resolution Ratifying an Amendment to the United States Constitution “ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

“Most residents are shocked to find out that the ERA never did pass,” said Cottonwood Heights City Councilmember Tali Bruce.

The ERA consists of one primary sentence: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The enforcement of appropriate legislation is also included within the amendment. 

“This sends a powerful message to women and girls: they are valued,” Bruce said.

The ERA was first introduced to the United States Congress in 1923, and “they borrowed language from our Utah Constitution,” Bruce reported. Specifically from Article IV, Section 1 of the Utah State Constitution. 

For any amendment to become part of the Constitution, 38 out of 50 states need to ratify it. Since 1972, when the ERA passed both the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 38 states have not been able to come together. To further complicate the situation, five states have rescinded their ratifications (Nebraska in 1973, Tennessee in 1974, Idaho in 1977, Kentucky in 1978 and South Dakota in 1979).

This year, ratification bills have been proposed in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Utah. As of publication, Utah’s bill has been proposed and remains in deliberation. Many municipalities around the valley have been showing their support. Bruce asked that the Cottonwood Heights City Council show their support by passing a resolution.

On Feb. 4, Cottonwood Heights City Manager Tim Tingey provided the above background information, with some additional pros/cons, to the city council. One of the potential pros Tingey discussed was “reducing issues with workplace conflict that already exist.”

However, one of the cons was indicative of the ERA being crafted over 40 years ago. “It would not protect non-binary residents,” said Tingey. “Gender is not a protected class like race and ethnicity when it comes to laws and governmental actions.”

Bruce provided additional information to the council about the implications of the ERA amendment. “Women are not constitutionally equal. When a female is discriminated against, she is held to a higher judicial standard. The ERA would ensure that equal treatment cannot be walked back.”

Councilmember Scott Bracken questioned the local level to which this conversation has trickled down. “It’s not a municipal issue,” he said. 

“I was 10 years old before a woman could have a credit card in her own name. It’s not our grandparents’ issue, it’s still well lived,” Bruce said.

Salt Lake County Councilmember Ann Granato spoke to the Cottonwood Heights City Council. “Equality can only be achieved by raising rights. Without the ERA, the statues and state laws that have made advances over the last few years are vulnerable. That’s not acceptable.”

In addition, many members of the League of Women Votes and the ERA Coalition have attended city council meetings to voice their support and urge the council to do the same.